steves: venice's sleek and graceful gondolas are a symbol of the city. from the start, boats were the way to get around among the island communities of the lagoon. to navigate over shifting sandbars, the boats were flat-bottomed, and the captains stood up to see. today's boats still come with gondoliers standing up and no rudder or keel. they're built with a slight curve so that a single oar on the side propels them in a straight line. the art of the gondola survives in the quiet back canals.